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6 Turkish lawyers arrested on charges of ‘filing criminal complaints of torture’

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Six lawyers out of 39 who appeared in court on Tuesday after 12 days in police custody have been arrested on the questionable charges of “filing criminal complaints of torture” and “contacting human rights defenders.”

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Sept. 11 issued detention warrants for 60 lawyers on terror charges. Thirty-nine of the lawyers were taken to court yesterday with a request for their arrest. The court has remanded six lawyers to pretrial detention and put the others under house arrest and judicial supervision.

The lawyers were detained based on witness statements alleging that they served as lawyers on cases of defendants affiliated with the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, after a July 15, 2016 coup attempt that the Turkish government has accused the movement of orchestrating.

The lawyers were brought to Ankara Courthouse in plastic handcuffs on September 14 for an extension of their period of detention. Ten bar associations, in particular those in Istanbul and Ankara, harshly criticized the detention of the lawyers.

Fifty-five lawyers detained on Tuesday in Izmir are currently being interrogated by the local prosecutor, and there are concerns that police operations against attorneys across Turkey will continue.

Accusation of filing a criminal complaint about torture

The investigation into the lawyers began in 2018 under orders from the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, with the suspects under surveillance for the past two years.

According to a statement issued by the prosecutor, the lawyers mobilized human rights defenders, especially well-known lawyers and international law platforms, against the violation of their clients’ rights. In particular, filing a criminal complaint about alleged torture was accepted as terrorist activity.

The lawyers were also accused of committing the crime of taking instructions from a terrorist organization due to the cases of clients dismissed by decree-laws under a two-year state of emergency declared after the failed coup, and users of the ByLock mobile phone app, which the government alleges was favored by members of the Gülen movement, as well as their appeals with the Constitutional Court and constant objections to the court and prosecutor’s decisions.

The prosecutor also claimed that the lawyers tried to dissuade people who wanted to take advantage of the active regret law and did not accept payment from some of their clients. Although the charges against the lawyers are related to their work as lawyers, the prosecutor described their efforts as a crime.

The accusation of targeting police personnel

The lawyers’ allegations of torture while in custody and their criminal complaints were also described as “targeting the police personnel who actively fight against the Gülenists.” The family members of some lawyers who are under arrest were presented to the court by the prosecution as indications that the lawyers were members of a terrorist organization.

As six of the lawyers appearing in court on Tuesday were arrested and the others were put under house arrest, it is now impossible for them to engage in their profession because they cannot go to the courthouse due to their confinement at home.

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